Monday, September 2, 2019

Fossils 101 - And How Scientists Know What Color Dinosaurs Were

National Geographic's YouTube channel has a great series called 101 Videos. The series contains 115 videos that provide five minute introductions to a wide variety of science topics. Fossils 101 is one of the recent additions to the series.

Fossils 101 explains to viewers what fossils are, fossil types, how fossils are formed, and what fossils can reveal to scientists about the past.

On a related note, a few years ago TED-Ed published a lesson titled How Do We Know What Color Dinosaurs Were? The video explains how scientists examine the melanosomes of fossilized feathers to determine the colors of some dinosaurs. The video then goes on to explain how the physics of light and color eventually lead scientists to their conclusions.

ClassHook Adds Live Discussions for Video Lessons

Last Friday on the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that ClassHook has a new feature for facilitating discussions about the videos that you show to your students. The new feature is called Live Discussions and it builds upon the popular Pause Prompts feature that ClassHook introduced earlier this year.

Pause Prompts are timestamped questions that you add to video clips in ClassHook. When you're showing a video to your class, the questions you've written as Pause Prompts will automatically pop-up at the timestamp you've specified. The video will stop and the question will appear full-screen in its place. You can then have a discussion with your students about the prompt.

Live Discussions builds upon Pause Prompts by incorporating an online response element for your students. Now when a Pause Prompt is reached you can have your students respond online as well as by speaking in class. Live Discussions generates a link and QR code for students to follow to land on a response page where they can answer the questions in the Pause Prompts. You'll be able to see their responses in your ClassHook teacher account.

Applications for Education
ClassHook's Live Discussions offers a great middle ground between a completely online response system and a completely voice-based, in-class discussion. You might not have time for ever student to respond to Pause Prompt aloud in your classroom so using the Live Discussion feature will give every student the opportunity to respond to the prompt.

A Few Short Lessons About Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the U.S. This is the traditional "end of summer" in the minds of many of us. After this weekend nearly all students and teachers will be back in school. If you're already back in school, you and your students should have enjoyed the three day weekend. Tomorrow you may have some students asking why Labor Day is a holiday. The following videos explain the origins of Labor Day.

Labor Day's Violent Beginnings

Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? - A TED-Ed Lesson

History of the Holidays: Labor Day History

Find more Labor Day resources in Larry Ferlazzo's extensive list of links.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Week in Review - Icebreakers, Cool Cats, and Pictures

Good morning from Maine where it is a beautiful start to Labor Day weekend. We have family visiting for the weekend so I'm going to quickly write this week's week-in-review before they everyone wakes up.

This week I had the privilege to work with teachers in Saint John's High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. We worked through a progression of learning experiences that I chose based on their needs and wants. If you'd like to have me do the same at your school, please get in touch.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Couple of Good Places to Find Icebreaker Activities
2. 5 Google Drive Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs
4. How to Embed Google Docs Into Your Blog Posts
5. Ten Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - Updated for 2019-20
6. Four Good Places to Find Audio Files for Multimedia Projects
7. Camera and Locomotive - A Mapped Story About the Transcontinental Railroad

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
This week I hosted the fourth Practical Ed Tech webinar of the month. I won't be hosting any more live webinars until the end of September. But I will have a new on-demand course available next week.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 375 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • PrepFactory offers free, personalized SAT and ACT prep. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 15,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • Facebook - The Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

How to Create and Distribute Google Docs Templates

At the beginning of the school year you might find yourself reviewing or introducing to your students the best way to take notes. You might also find yourself teaching them things like to how complete a science lab report. I was reminded of this yesterday when a former colleague asked if there was a way to create a note-taking template for his students to follow in Google Documents. There is a simple way to do that but it's easier to show than it is to tell. Therefore, I made the following video about how to create and distribute Google Docs templates.